Whippet

Table of Contents

whippet dog portrait
Welcome to the world of Whippet – the graceful, lightning-fast canines that will steal your heart in a flash! These sleek, aerodynamic dogs have an irresistible charm, thanks to their soulful eyes and gentle demeanor.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

Whippets are ideal for those seeking a loyal, affectionate, and adaptable companion. They’re perfect for active individuals who enjoy outdoor exercises and dog sports and those who cherish cuddle time at home. They can thrive in both urban apartments and spacious country homes, making them suitable for various living situations.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEWhippet
OTHER NAMESSnap Dog
ORIGINEngland
BREED GROUPHound Group
BREED SIZEMedium
HEIGHT18-22 inches
WEIGHT25-40 lbs
LIFESPAN12-15 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERHigh
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERLow
GROOMING NEEDSLow
EXERCISE NEEDSHigh
TRAINABILITYModerate
BARKING TENDENCYLow
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELLow
POPULARITY RANK54th
three whippets racing
Photo: alektas/Pixabay

Appearance

The Whippet is a medium-sized dog breed that boasts an elegant and streamlined appearance. Their refined physique is a result of their sighthound lineage, which has been carefully developed for speed and agility. Whippets are often likened to smaller Greyhounds, featuring a lean and muscular body that highlights their athletic capabilities.

Whippets typically stand between 18 to 22 inches tall at the shoulder, with males being slightly larger than females. They usually weigh between 25 and 40 pounds, depending on their height and build. Despite their lightweight frame, Whippets possess remarkable strength, enabling them to reach impressive speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.

The Whippet’s head is long and narrow, with a slight stop and a well-defined muzzle. Their dark, round eyes have an intelligent and alert expression, while also exuding a sense of gentleness and affection.

The ears of a Whippet are usually small and rose-shaped, folding neatly back against their head when at rest. However, when the Whippet is alert or excited, their ears may become more erect, showcasing their keen senses.

One of the most striking features of a Whippet is their long, arching neck, which flows seamlessly into their deep chest and well-sprung ribs. This elegant curvature, combined with their narrow waist and powerful hindquarters, contributes to the breed’s aerodynamic shape and exceptional running ability.

Whippets have long, slender legs that end in compact, well-padded feet, designed to withstand the impact of their rapid movements. Their tail is long and tapering, usually carried low, and can act as a rudder to help them change direction quickly during high-speed pursuits.

The coat of a Whippet is short, smooth, and close-fitting, making them low-maintenance in terms of grooming. However, their thin coat and lack of body fat mean they are more sensitive to cold temperatures and may require extra warmth in the form of a sweater or blanket during chilly weather.

The Whippet’s coat comes in an array of colors and patterns, including solid shades like black, white, fawn, blue, and brindle, as well as various combinations of these hues with or without white markings.

Overall, the Whippet’s physical characteristics showcase their remarkable combination of elegance, strength, and speed. Their sleek, muscular body, gentle expression, and low-maintenance coat make them not only a stunning breed to behold but also a versatile and adaptable companion for various lifestyles.

whippet on a beach
Photo: mille_photos_lea/Pixabay

Temperament

One of the first things you’ll notice about Whippets is their sweet and amiable nature. They are friendly dogs that form strong bonds with their families. Their gentle demeanor makes them wonderful companions, and they are known to get along well with children and other pets.

Despite their racing lineage, Whippets are surprisingly low-key at home. They are quiet, and often described as couch potatoes. They love to cuddle up in comfortable spots and can be found snoozing on the softest cushion in the house. This laid-back attitude, combined with their affectionate nature, makes them great for families and individuals seeking a calm and loving pet.

However, don’t let their love for lounging fool you. Given something to chase, the Whippet is lightning quick. They were originally bred for racing and chasing small game, so they have a natural instinct to run. They are incredibly fast, agile, and have an intense prey drive.

Whippets are also intelligent and observant, with a keen alertness that makes them excellent watchdogs. Yet, they are not typically barkers, keeping the peace in your household.

But what really makes Whippets stand out is their adaptability. These dogs are just as happy living in a small city apartment as they are in a home with a large backyard. They’re able to adjust to different living situations and lifestyles, making them a wonderful choice for many types of households.

whippet standing in a flower field
Photo: Daniel Hartmann / 500px/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

Physical Environment

Whippets are adaptable dogs that can comfortably adjust to various living situations, from spacious country homes to urban apartments.

However, regardless of the living space, it’s essential to provide a secure, fenced area where they can safely run and play, as their strong prey drive may entice them to chase after smaller animals or moving objects.

Climate Adaptability

Regarding climate adaptability, Whippets are sensitive to both cold and hot temperatures. Their thin coat and lack of body fat make them more susceptible to the cold, so it’s crucial to provide extra warmth in the form of a sweater or blanket during chilly weather.

In hot climates, Whippets can be prone to overheating due to their lean bodies and high energy levels. It’s essential to provide ample shade, fresh water, and limit their physical activities during the hottest parts of the day to prevent heatstroke.

Ideal Owner

In terms of pet parents, Whippets are well-suited for individuals or families who appreciate a balance between an active lifestyle and relaxation time. They thrive with owners who can engage them in regular outdoor exercises such as walks, runs, or dog sports like lure coursing, flyball, and agility.

Simultaneously, Whippets enjoy quiet moments spent lounging on the couch or snuggling with their favorite humans. Their gentle nature and affinity for children make them excellent family pets, provided that interactions are supervised, and children are taught to respect the dog’s boundaries.

Other Pets

When considering other pets in the household, Whippets can coexist harmoniously with dogs of various sizes and breeds. However, due to their strong prey drive, families with smaller animals such as cats, rabbits, or rodents should be cautious when introducing a Whippet.

Early socialization and careful monitoring of interactions between a Whippet and smaller pets can help ensure a safe and positive environment for all.

whippet on a field
Photo: No-longer-here/Pixabay

Grooming

Whippets are relatively low-maintenance when it comes to grooming, thanks to their short, smooth coat. However, they still require regular care to keep them looking and feeling their best. By establishing a consistent grooming routine, you can help maintain your Whippet’s overall health and well-being while also strengthening the bond between you and your furry companion.

Coat Care

Whippets have a thin, close-fitting coat that sheds minimally throughout the year. To keep their coat in optimal condition, it’s essential to brush them weekly using a soft-bristle brush, rubber grooming mitt, or a hound glove.

This gentle brushing helps remove loose hair, distribute natural skin oils, and keep their coat looking shiny and healthy. It also provides an excellent opportunity for you to check for any skin issues, lumps, or bumps that may require attention.

Whippets do not have a strong odor and generally stay quite clean, so baths are only necessary every few months or when they get particularly dirty. When bathing your Whippet, be sure to use a gentle, dog-specific shampoo that won’t strip their natural skin oils.

Always rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue, as leftover shampoo can cause skin irritation. After bathing, towel-dry your Whippet gently to avoid chilling them, as their thin coat and lack of body fat make them more sensitive to temperature changes.

Dental Care

Like all breeds, Whippets require regular dental care to prevent plaque buildup, tartar, and potential dental issues such as gum disease or tooth loss. Ideally, you should brush your Whippet’s teeth daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush and dog-specific toothpaste.

If daily brushing is not feasible, aim for at least two to three times per week. In addition to brushing, providing dental chews or toys designed to help clean teeth and massage gums can support your Whippet’s oral health.

Nail Care

Whippets have fast-growing nails that require regular trimming to prevent overgrowth, cracking, or splitting. Ideally, you should trim your Whippet’s nails every two to four weeks, depending on their growth rate and activity level.

Using a guillotine-style or scissor-style nail clipper designed for dogs, carefully trim the nails, being cautious not to cut into the quick – the sensitive blood vessel inside the nail. If you’re uncomfortable trimming your dog’s nails, consider enlisting the help of a professional groomer or vet technician.

Ear Care

To prevent ear infections and maintain your Whippet’s overall ear health, it’s crucial to check and clean their ears regularly. Inspect their ears weekly for any signs of redness, swelling, or discharge, which may indicate an infection or irritation.

To clean your Whippet’s ears, use a dog-specific ear cleaner and a cotton ball or soft cloth to gently wipe away any dirt or debris. Avoid using cotton swabs, as they can push debris further into the ear canal or damage the sensitive inner ear structures.

whippet's face in the sun
Photo: MDA_Marketing/Pixabay

Exercise

Whippets, known for their speed and athleticism, require regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. As a breed with a strong prey drive and natural agility, Whippets benefit from a variety of activities that cater to these instincts and provide an outlet for their energy.

Exercise Amount & Types

When it comes to daily exercise, Whippets typically need at least 30 to 45 minutes of activity per day, which can be divided into multiple sessions. This exercise can include brisk walks, jogs, or off-leash playtime in a securely fenced area.

It’s important to remember that Whippets are sprinters, not long-distance runners, so shorter bursts of high-intensity exercise are more appropriate for this breed than prolonged endurance activities.

Dog Sports

In addition to daily walks or playtime, Whippets excel at various dog sports and competitions, which can provide both physical and mental stimulation. Lure coursing, for example, is a popular sport among Whippets, as it involves chasing a mechanical lure across an open field, mimicking the pursuit of live prey. Their natural speed and agility make them exceptional competitors in this fast-paced activity.

Another suitable sport for Whippets is flyball, a relay race where dogs must jump over hurdles, retrieve a ball from a spring-loaded box, and return to their handler as quickly as possible. Their speed and enthusiasm for retrieving make them well-suited for this exciting team sport.

Whippets also possess the agility and quick reflexes needed to excel in obstacle course competitions, such as agility trials. These courses require dogs to navigate jumps, tunnels, ramps, and weave poles, showcasing their nimble bodies and keen responsiveness.

Obedience and rally competitions are other options to consider, as they test a dog’s ability to perform a series of commands and exercises accurately and promptly. Whippets’ intelligence and eagerness to please can make them successful competitors in these events with consistent training and positive reinforcement.

Exercise Precautions

When engaging your Whippet in any form of exercise, it’s essential to consider their susceptibility to temperature extremes. Their thin coat and lack of body fat make them sensitive to both cold and hot weather, so take precautions to ensure they stay comfortable and safe during outdoor activities.

whippet on agility course
Photo: s5iztok/Getty Images

Training

Whippets are intelligent and eager to please, making them generally trainable and responsive to consistent, positive training methods. However, as a sighthound breed with a strong prey drive, they may sometimes be more independent-minded and easily distracted by fast-moving objects or smaller animals.

It’s essential to approach Whippet training with patience, persistence, and an understanding of their unique temperament.

When training a Whippet, it’s crucial to use positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, or toys, to motivate and reward desired behaviors. This breed is sensitive and can become discouraged or disinterested if exposed to harsh training methods or negative feedback.

By maintaining a positive, encouraging atmosphere during training sessions, you can help your Whippet develop confidence and strengthen the bond between you and your dog.

Socialization is a vital aspect of training for all dog breeds, including Whippets. Expose your Whippet to various people, animals, environments, and situations from a young age to help them develop into well-adjusted, confident adults. Proper socialization can also help reduce the likelihood of fear or anxiety-based behaviors in the future.

As Whippets have a strong prey drive, working on a reliable recall command is essential. Practice recall training in a secure, enclosed area to ensure your Whippet’s safety. Be prepared to invest time and effort into teaching your Whippet to come when called, as their instinct to chase may override their desire to obey in certain situations.

Obedience training, including basic commands like sit, stay, and down, should also be part of your Whippet’s training routine. These foundational skills provide a basis for more advanced training and help establish clear communication between you and your dog.

Lastly, consider engaging your Whippet in dog sports or activities that cater to their natural speed and agility, such as lure coursing, flyball, or agility trials. These sports can provide mental stimulation and reinforce the training skills you’ve been working on while also allowing your Whippet to showcase their athletic prowess.

whippet in a forest
Photo: Natalia Timchenko/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

A balanced diet and proper nutrition are essential for maintaining the overall health and well-being of your Whippet. As an athletic breed, Whippets require high-quality food that provides the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to support their energy levels and lean muscle mass.

What to Feed & How Much

When selecting suitable dog food for your Whippet, look for options that follow the guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These guidelines ensure that the food meets the nutritional requirements for a healthy canine diet. You can choose between dry food, wet food, or raw food, depending on your Whippet’s preferences and your own convenience.

The amount of food you feed your Whippet will depend on factors such as their age, weight, activity level, and individual metabolism. Generally, adult Whippets require approximately 1 to 1.5 cups of high-quality dry dog food per day, divided into two meals.

However, it’s essential to consult your veterinarian or refer to the feeding guidelines provided by the dog food manufacturer to determine the appropriate portion size for your specific dog.

Puppies have different nutritional needs than adult dogs and typically require more frequent feeding. Whippet puppies should be fed three to four times per day, gradually transitioning to two meals per day as they approach adulthood. It’s crucial to select a puppy-specific formula that supports healthy growth and development during this critical stage.

Treats & Water

Treats can be a valuable tool for training and rewarding your Whippet, but they should be given in moderation to avoid overfeeding and potential weight gain. Opt for healthy, low-calorie treats, and remember to account for them in your dog’s daily caloric intake.

Fresh water should always be readily available for your Whippet, ensuring they stay well-hydrated throughout the day. Clean and refill their water bowl daily to encourage proper hydration and prevent the growth of bacteria.

Health

Whippets are generally a healthy and robust breed, with an average life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. However, like all dog breeds, they may be prone to certain health issues. Providing a healthy diet, ensuring regular veterinary check-ups, and staying up-to-date on vaccinations can contribute to maintaining their overall health and well-being.

Some common health issues associated with Whippets include:

Heart issues: Whippets can be susceptible to heart conditions such as mitral valve disease and dilated cardiomyopathy. Regular veterinary check-ups, including heart screenings, can help detect and address these issues early.

Hip dysplasia: Although less common in Whippets than in larger breeds, hip dysplasia can still occur. This genetic condition involves an abnormal formation of the hip joint, leading to arthritis and discomfort. Responsible breeding practices and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of hip dysplasia.

Eye problems: Whippets may be prone to various eye conditions, including progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, and corneal dystrophy. Routine eye exams can help identify and manage any potential eye issues.

Anesthesia sensitivity: Whippets, like other sighthounds, have a low body fat percentage, which can make them more sensitive to anesthesia. Discuss this with your veterinarian to ensure appropriate precautions are taken during any surgical procedures.

Allergies and skin issues: Whippets may experience allergies or skin sensitivities, leading to itching, redness, or hair loss. Regular grooming, a balanced diet, and consulting with your veterinarian can help manage and prevent skin-related concerns.

To keep your Whippet healthy, provide them with a balanced, high-quality diet that meets their nutritional needs. Regular veterinary check-ups, including routine bloodwork, heart screenings, and eye exams, can help detect and address potential health issues early. Additionally, staying up-to-date on vaccinations and parasite prevention can protect your Whippet from common infectious diseases and pests.

whippet training with its owner on a park
Photo: Zbynek Pospisil/Getty Images

History

The Whippet, a breed known for its speed and elegance, has a rich history dating back to 18th century England. Originally bred as a hunting dog, the Whippet has since gained popularity as a racing dog, show dog, and beloved companion.

The origins of the Whippet can be traced back to the working-class regions of Northern England, particularly Lancashire and Yorkshire. These areas were known for their textile mills, where workers bred small Greyhounds with other breeds, such as terriers, to create a smaller, faster dog capable of hunting rabbits and other small game.

The resulting breed was the Whippet, named after the old English word “whappet,” meaning “a small dog that yaps.”

Whippets quickly gained a reputation for their exceptional speed and agility, earning them the nickname “the poor man’s racehorse.” They became popular among mill workers who would participate in informal races known as “rag races” or “snap-dog trials.” In these competitions, a cloth or “rag” would be waved at the finish line, and the dogs would be released to chase after it.

The first dog to reach and “snap” the rag would be declared the winner. These races were not only a source of entertainment for the workers but also a way to supplement their income through betting on the outcomes.

As the Industrial Revolution progressed and urbanization increased, many mill workers moved to cities, bringing their Whippets with them. The breed soon caught the attention of the upper class, who admired the Whippet’s grace, beauty, and speed. By the late 19th century, Whippets had become popular show dogs and were being exhibited in dog shows across England.

The Whippet made its way to the United States in the late 1800s, where it continued to gain popularity both as a racing dog and a companion animal. The breed was first registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1888, and the first Whippet to become an AKC champion was a dog named Jack Dempsey, who earned the title in 1908.

In popular culture, Whippets have been featured in various forms of media, such as movies, television shows, and literature. One notable example is the character “Montmorency” in Jerome K. Jerome’s classic novel “Three Men in a Boat,” where the dog is described as a small, energetic, and mischievous Whippet.

Additionally, the breed has made appearances in films like “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and the television series “Downton Abbey.”

Today, the Whippet continues to thrive both in the show ring and as a cherished companion, embodying the grace, speed, and charm that has captivated admirers for centuries.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Whippet dog breed in the United States is the American Whippet Club (AWC). The AWC was founded in 1930 with the mission to protect and advance the interests of the breed.

The club is dedicated to promoting responsible breeding practices, encouraging participation in dog sports and activities, and providing education and resources for Whippet enthusiasts. The official webpage for the American Whippet Club can be accessed here.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities.

Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the Whippet’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

a whippet lying down on the green grass
Photo: Natalia Timchenko/Getty Images

Acquiring

When considering acquiring a Whippet dog, it’s essential to prepare for the responsibility of caring for a new pet and ensure that your home environment is suitable for this energetic and affectionate breed. Before bringing a Whippet into your life, research the breed’s temperament, exercise, and grooming needs to ensure you can provide the proper care and attention.

Rescuing a Whippet from a shelter or breed-specific rescue organization is a great way to give a loving home to a dog in need. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the American Whippet Club can provide resources and assistance in finding Whippets available for adoption. By choosing to rescue, you not only save a life but also help combat unethical breeding practices and overpopulation.

Before welcoming a Whippet into your home, make sure to have all the necessary supplies, such as a comfortable bed, food and water bowls, toys, grooming tools, and a secure leash and collar or harness.

FAQs

Are Whippets calm dogs?

Whippets are generally calm and gentle dogs when indoors, making them excellent companions for a relaxed home environment. However, they do have bursts of energy and require regular exercise to keep them healthy and happy.

What breeds make the Whippet?

The Whippet is believed to be a result of crossbreeding between small Greyhounds and other breeds such as terriers. This combination created a smaller, faster dog with exceptional speed and agility, perfect for hunting small game.

Are Whippets expensive?

The cost of a Whippet can vary depending on factors such as the breeder, bloodline, and location. On average, Whippet puppies from reputable breeders can cost between $800 and $2,500. Keep in mind that additional costs, such as vaccinations, vet visits, and supplies, should also be considered.

Are Whippets good pets?

Whippets make excellent pets for many families due to their affectionate, friendly nature and adaptability to various living situations. They are good with children and other pets, but their strong prey drive may make them unsuitable for households with small animals like rabbits or rodents.

Are Whippets hypoallergenic?

Whippets are not considered hypoallergenic, as no dog breed is entirely allergen-free. However, their short coat and minimal shedding make them a better option for those with mild allergies compared to breeds with longer, more abundant fur.

How much exercise do Whippets need?

Whippets require regular exercise to maintain their health and well-being. A daily walk or run, along with opportunities for off-leash play in a secure area, will help keep your Whippet physically and mentally stimulated.

Are Whippets easy to train?

Whippets are intelligent and eager to please, making them generally trainable and responsive to consistent, positive training methods. However, their strong prey drive may sometimes make them more independent-minded and easily distracted. Patience, persistence, and a positive approach to training are essential for success with this breed.

Fun Facts

  • Whippets are known for their incredible speed. They can reach up to 35 miles per hour, making them one of the fastest dog breeds. This is why they’re often referred to as “the poor man’s racehorse.” Their sleek body and muscular build allow them to sprint at these impressive speeds.
  • Even though they’re quite athletic, Whippets love nothing more than curling up on a comfortable lap. They’re incredibly affectionate and love being close to their families. Don’t be surprised if your Whippet tries to squeeze into the smallest possible space next to you on the couch!

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